Students to witness oral arguments

Convicted felon seeks to have firearms seized by police delivered to his mother; Muskegon prosecutor argues felon-in-possession law bars delivery

A collection of firearms owned by a convicted felon, and his efforts to have police deliver the guns to his mother, are at issue in a case that the Michigan Supreme Court will hear on October 25 in Grand Rapids as part of the "Court Community Connections" program.

In People v Minch, officers from the Fruitport Township Police Department seized 87 firearms from the defendant's home after the defendant's girlfriend reported that he had threatened her with a gun, at one point holding it to her head and pulling the trigger. Although the defendant was using a starting pistol, his girlfriend believed it to be a real gun. Of the 87 firearms, only one was illegal to own--a short-barreled shotgun.

After pleading guilty and being sentenced for illegal possession of the shotgun, and for possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, the defendant requested that the police turn over the non-contraband firearms to his mother. The prosecutor argued that the police could not deliver the firearms to the defendant's mother, or any other person he designated, without violating Michigan's felon-in-possession statute. That statute makes it illegal for a convicted felon to "possess, use, transport, sell, purchase, carry, ship, receive, or distribute a firearm in this state..." But the circuit court and the Michigan Court of Appeals both ruled that the guns had to be turned over to the defendant's mother.

While the Supreme Court normally hears oral argument at the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing, "Court Community Connections" takes the Court to various locations throughout Michigan to hold oral argument. The program is aimed principally at high school students.

The Grand Rapids program will be held at the Gerald R. Ford Museum, with about 200 Kent County students watching as attorneys in People v Minch argue their cases to the Court's seven justices. Afterwards, the students will meet with the attorneys for a debriefing.

Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., explained that the Court started "Court Community Connections" in 2007 to foster a better understanding of how appellate courts work and affect peoples' lives. 2

"Compared to the trials we see depicted in films and television, the appellate process is pretty short on glamour and drama," Young said. "But appellate courts set legal precedents that affect not only one case, but many others, and often for years to come. Through this program, students come to appreciate the importance of this part of the legal process."

The oral argument will begin at 12:30 p.m.

Published: Thu, Oct 18, 2012


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